“Spring Clean” Your Task List in 4 Simple Steps

So you kick off 2024 without the “baggage” of 2023

Hi friend!

This week I want to talk about the simple act of “spring cleaning” your task list.

This frees you from the mental overwhelm you might be feeling, “holding onto” these tasks that are no longer serving you. The spring clean will help you reduce your list of tasks down to what truly matters to you.

It’s a practical application of Slow Productivity!

💡 Today at a glance

  • 4 reasons you should “spring clean” your task list.

  • 5 simple step on how to spring clean your list of tasks, goals and projects.

  • Notion 101 Handbook — I’m interested in your thoughts on a re-name!

As 2023 comes to a close, every corner you turn to on the internet talks about annual reviews, setting goals and planning for 2024.

That is important and it will unlock a lot of personal growth (especially if you’ve never done it before). I enjoy doing them and have been doing that for the last 15+ years. I’m in the middle of mine at the moment.

But don’t look for the “perfect” annual review and goal setting system though.

The key is just getting started.

Decluttering (or “spring cleaning” as I like to call it) your task list is the first easy step you can take to get yourself ready for 2024. Even if you don’t plan to set goals or do a full annual review or plan.

When you look at each task that sits on your to-do list and eliminate tasks from the list, right down to the essential and important tasks, it puts you back in control of your time and attention.

Every item on your list is a commitment you’ve made.

Reducing these commitments helps to calm the mind for slow and focused productivity.

Once you let go of the lingering tasks that are no longer that important on careful reflection, it will feel like a weight has lifted off your shoulders.

It certainly did for me.

4 reasons you should (probably) spring clean your task list

1. Removes clutter.

Like physical objects, we often accumulate more and more tasks on our to-do list, and don’t take the time out to declutter.

It’s especially dangerous in the digital world.

As there are no “cost” to keeping a never ending task list. The true cost is in the mental load we carry by having these tasks tucked away in our digital systems.

2. Remove irrelevant tasks.

Sometimes we add tasks that we think are important to do, but then it just sits on our list, constantly pushed back to “someday”.

Sometimes it’s because that task is no longer relevant or important.

3. Remove “Nice to do” Tasks.

Sometimes we have aspirational tasks on our list because we read somewhere it would be great to travel to Morocco, learn to bake banana bread or attend a pottery class.

Without linking these tasks to our goals intentionally , these tasks just sit there on the list for “when we have time”.

There is nothing wrong with aspirational tasks.

I prefer to move these to a “dreams list”, and keep my task list actionable.

4. Remove other people’s priorities.

This is a classic one for me as a people pleaser.

I have items on my to-do list that are actually other people’s priorities. Of course you can’t remove all of it. Especially if you have a spouse, a family, or work a day job.

Sometimes even when you run your own business, you’ll have other people’s priorities on your list.

The key is intentionality.

Making sure if it is other people’s priorities, there’s a good reason for it to be on your list.

I accidentally let my “aged tasks” pile up!

Before I added “reviewing aged tasks” to my weekly review and planning template in Notion… It wasn’t something I remembered to do consistently.

This the beauty of Notion Templates.

It helps you create workflows and systems so that you don’t have to “remember”.

Half way down the template — You can see “Review aged task” as a check box for me

For half a year, I could sense my task list getting bigger and bigger (I was adding more tasks than I was ticking off!)

Then about 2 months ago, when I sneaked a peak at my total tasks in my Notion Task Database… it was sitting at 185 items!

I finally decided to set aside an hour to spring clean my task list. 

And I let go of 90+ tasks from the list. Literally just hit delete on them.

I felt an immediate mental load lift off my shoulders.

And what remained were the tasks that were truly important to my life right now.

As of today, my list sits at a comfortable 81 items.

Current number of tasks on my list as I write this Newsletter issue…:

💡 The goal isn’t to get to “task list zero” by the way.

This “spring clean” practice is to help you build your intentionality muscle. 

For better or for worse, we will likely leave this earth with tasks left on our to-do list. Don’t fixate on the number of items on the list.

Instead master the art of cultivate a list of what’s truly important to you.

I normally do this “spring cleaning” of my task list in Notion as part of my Weekly review and planning process, so it’s a quick process. But you can really do it any time or as frequently as you want to.

When you do this once a year, it will feel like you’re undergoing a major digital declutter.

You’ll feel great afterwards.

Here are the steps to “spring clean” your task list:

Step 1: Review from your tasks from oldest to newest

Sort your tasks on your to-do list from the oldest to the newest tasks based on when the task was added or created (if your to-do list app allows you to).

This gets you into groove of deleting tasks…

Because chances are your very old tasks are no longer relevant or a priority if you haven’t gotten to it so far!

Step 2: Ask yourself these questions

Look at each task on your to-do list, and ask yourself these simple questions:

  1. If you haven’t done it for > 3 months, are you REALLY going to do this?

  2. Is this task still relevant to your life?

  3. If it’s still relevant, why haven’t you done it?

  4. Is the task actually a multi-step task?

Answering these questions helps you get intentional about why it’s still on your task list. It ensures you don’t hang onto tasks that are no longer serving your.

If in doubt… delete.

I’ve adapted these questions from Khe Hy’s process.

Step 3: Turn tasks that are multi-steps into projects

If a task turns out to be multiple steps, break it down into seperate tasks or turn the “task” into a project.

Ideally a task should always start with an action word (e.g. write this week’s newsletter).

Step 4: Add “review aged tasks” to your weekly review process.

Reviewing your “aged” tasks regularly is key to keeping your to-do list intentional and consistent with your bigger life goals and projects that you’re working towards.

Since adding this action item to my weekly review and planning template in Notion, it’s been a game changer in keeping my task list in check.

💡 How to do this in Notion:

Create a “Linked view” of the task list database in your weekly review page.

Sort the task list from oldest to newest (based on the “creation date” — You can add this as a Notion database property).

If the task is still relevant and related to my goals, projects or areas of life, then it stays on the list.

Since I do this weekly, I only look at the oldest 10 to 20 items on the list.

It takes a grand total of a minute.

Bonus! Step 5: Spring clean your Goals & Project list, to get you ready for 2024.

Have a look at your list of goals and projects that you set yourself for 2023.

Is there anything you haven’t achieved or ticked off the list?

If so, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you really still going to do this in 2024?

  • Is this goal or project still relevant in 2024?

  • If so, when haven’t you done it?

The day will never arrive when you finally have everything under control—when the flood of emails has been contained; when your to-do lists have stopped getting longer… Let’s start by admitting defeat: none of this is ever going to happen. But you know what? That’s excellent news.”

Oliver Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals

We have limited time in our days and our lives, so everything can’t be important.

Constantly reviewing your to-do list is a practice of intentionality.

Practicing slow productivity only works when you ruthlessly eliminate what’s no longer important.

Every time we look at the task and NOT delete it, we’re signalling to ourselves that it’s still important. So we need to find a time for it.

🛠️ Building in Public

I’ve been radio silent on the Notion 101 Handbook recently. But it’s still on the cards! Especially after running through Jeff Felten’s excellent challenge.

The name Notion 101 Handbook seems a bit boring. If you have any suggestions, do shoot me an email.

I’m thinking a re-name to something like “Notion Starter Roadmap”… and making it a guided experience for Notion beginners.

Would love to hear what you think of that?!

Thanks for reading.

Happy holidays (and Merry Christmas to those who celebrate the occasion).

I wish you a restful and joyful period with family and friends wherever you are in the world.

See you next week,

CK

📌 Some Interesting Things

  1. Four Thousand Weeks Is the Best Book I’ve Read on Productivity In 2022

    A throwback to my favourite book of 2022. Three simple reason why it’s the best book I read. It makes you re-evaluate our modern-day notion of productivity.

    Check out the Atomic Essay on Medium

  2. How to nail your Weekly Review by Khe Hy

    And he promises you’ll be done in 25 minutes. If you don’t have a weekly review process, use his (or adapt it to your own).

    Check out the thread on X / Twitter

  3. The ladders of wealth creation: a step-by-step roadmap to building wealth by Nathan Barry

    One of the most impactful articles I read all week. Nathan Barry (Founder of ConvertKit) nicely breaks down the 4 ladders of wealth creation that is a must read.

    Check out the Article

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